To say the New York Jets are experiencing yet another lackluster and disappointing campaign would be an understatement. The franchise is expectedly in year one of a lengthy rebuild, and things are progressing rather slowly in 2021. First-year head coach Robert Saleh is taking his bumps and bruises as he oversees a young team that is still finding its way. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson continues to acclimate to the league in especially difficult fashion.
A struggling Jets team has dealt with their fair share of injury-related issues. Wilson suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of an embarrassing Week 7 blowout defeat to the New England Patriots and spent more time on the sidelines than originally expected. New York's latest injury saga includes another one of their young stars that’s largely considered a crucial piece of their future.
Sophomore left tackle Mekhi Becton is currently 11 weeks removed from knee surgery and was expected to make a triumphant return to the field after eight weeks on the mend. Becton is now three weeks past his original timeline and has yet to participate in any team or individual activities. Becton's extended absence has added a lure of unwanted mystery to a situation Jets fans hope to avoid going forward.
General manager Joe Douglas and Saleh have little reason to rush Becton back in what's largely been a lost season, but the level of concern the fan base is currently exuberating is somewhat understandable.
Draft analysts and front office decision-makers rightfully marveled at Becton's massive 365-pound frame as a prospect coming out of Louisville. Possessing such a body type and unique athletic skill set made Becton a sought-after player, but it also raised questions regarding his durability. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Becton weighed in at the 99th percentile of all offensive tackles, via Relative Athletic Score. Becton is a mammoth of a man, even by offensive tackle standards.
Those durability concerns have been further magnified. Box score scouting would tell you Becton missed just two regular-season games as a rookie, but the Highland Springs, Virginia native was hampered throughout several others due to recurring shoulder issues. It led to a rather uneven rookie campaign. Becton's 2020 play was by no means of the concerning nature, but rather par for the course for a young blindside protector acclimating to his new surroundings.
And then the sophomore summer arrived. Becton was deemed unable to participate in organized team activities in June after suffering a foot injury which was commonly diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. In August, Becton was diagnosed with a concussion that cost him a fortnight. Becton's professional career thus far reflects that of an oft-injured player that still possesses a tremendous amount of upside and potential going forward.
Rushing Becton back would qualify as a futile exercise for a team that is merely playing to sort out their final draft positioning. Saleh's Jets will largely go through the motions in the weeks to come as they anxiously await yet another important and crucial offseason. Becton may not return to the field in 2021—and that's largely OK—but 2022 will be the most important year of Becton's young career. Another wasted and injury-filled campaign would lead to massive question marks surrounding the future of the left tackle position in New York.